For the second time this season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went up against one of the best teams in the NFC and failed to measure up.
Philadelphia came into Tampa Bay back in Week 3 and beat the Bucs by two touchdowns, and the Detroit Lions did the same exact thing three weeks later. Tampa Bay is still in first place and owns a winning record, but it's hard to feel good about anything that happened in the 20-6 loss on Sunday.
In both games the Bucs fell into a similar pattern of failing to find a ryhtym before sputtering out over the course of the game. At least in the loss to the Eagles the team battled back late and showed some signs of life, where the loss to Detroit was a total ass kicking.
Baker Mayfield looked like the quarterback the pundits thought he'd be this offseason, the run game remained terrible -- averaging fewer yards per carry than last year -- and Mike Evans dropped some early passes that stunted momentum.
After the game head coach Todd Bowles tried to find the silver lining, and attempted to paint the loss as not as bad as it it seemed.
Todd Bowles downplays Buccaneers loss to Lions: 'Hard-fought game'
Bowles was asked about both the loss to Detroit and the Bucs earlier loss to Philadelphia and downplayed the idea that they were multiple score losses.
"I felt it was close. It was 10-3 at halftime," Bowles said. "It was a hard-fought game. The mistakes we made put the game at 20-6 and we couldn't recover from that."
It sounds like an excuse, but Bowles isn't wrong. The Bucs once again boxed themselves out of a chance to beat a top contending team in the NFC thanks to dumb mistakes.
Baker's interception in the first quarter was intended for a wide open Mike Evans, who would have walked in for an easy touchdown. Later Evans was flagged for pass interference which moved the Bucs back from Detroit's 8-yard line and killed a potential touchdown drive.
Those two plays account for 14-points in a game the Bucs lost by that exact margin. Had Ryan Neal not blown his coverage on Jameson Williams in the third quarter -- or finished the play and ripped the ball out of his hands -- the Bucs might be celebrating a statement victory.
It was an eerily similar downward trajectory to what we saw in the loss to Philly. Mike Evans was Baker's target on a misfire that should have resulted in a touchdown and an early lead, and everything went downhill from there. The offense never found a rhythm, mistakes piled up and the Bucs ended up losing by 14-points.
Bowles isn't wrong that the Bucs were closer to winning than the box score indicates, but the troubling pattern of how the team plays against better teams is the real takeaway from how Sunday went.